The coronavirus pandemic and its immediate economic fallout served as a sort of stress test for the financial advisory industry.

The COVID-caused market turmoil put tremendous pressure on our organizations and systems. During this period of extreme panic and uncertainty, we had to deal with phone calls, emails and video meetings to reassure and educate our clients. When we weren’t communicating, we were focused on ensuring portfolios were positioned appropriately to navigate the crisis and re-running our financial plans to play out the multitude of potential scenarios.

Understandably, other vital tasks sometimes fell through the cracks.

As things calm down and we have time to look back at our performance during the craziest days of the pandemic, there are lessons to be learned about how we operate and deliver service to our clients. Chief among these insights is the power of an AI assistant to boost our capabilities.

Well-deployed AI integrates a firm’s technology stack to ensure that everything gets done – even when all hands are on deck focusing on maintaining client relationships and dealing with the steady stream of requests for information and hand-holding.

An AI assistant can proactively push critical information to an advisor and her team, allowing the advisor to keep her finger on the pulse of their book and be reminded when a review or action is necessary. A robust AI can, for example, track and report client cash positions, identify new client cash inflows, and deliver all the data required to prepare an advisor for a client meeting.

This ability to push out information represents a sea change in our traditional modus operandi, in which advisors and their colleagues spend significant amounts of time and effort pulling, gathering and synthesizing information.

The staff time saved by the AI’s capabilities becomes available deepen client relationships and develop potential new business. AI can be a force multiplier in those efforts, too, by proactively identifying individual clients who are due for personal communications or flagging groups of clients that need to hear about a particular investment policy decision.

It may be tempting to dismiss the stresses of the COVID crisis as an outlier; to think its lessons do not apply to “normal times.” But that would be shortsighted. We live in an era of both rapid change and increased client expectations. Many of those expectations – instant gratification and super-service are driven by consumers’ experiences with internet businesses and traditional industries that have fully embraced the power of technology.

To survive and thrive in this brave new world, the financial services industry must deliver superior relationship-based service to our clients. Ironically, harnessing the machines is the best way to increase that human touch – whether or not we’re in a crisis.

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